Book Reviews and Writing Tips

Book Reviews and Writing Tips

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Merry Christmas

Wishing everyone a Merry Christmas and a happy, healthy New Year.  If Happy Holidays works better for you, that’s fine too.  However you celebrate, enjoy family, friends and loved ones.  Time flies by so fast.

I’ll be back next year with something constructive to share about writing, I hope.  I haven’t gotten to do as much of that as I would like since I started working again.  There was never ever enough hours in a day for me before and now it’s almost impossible to get to my computer.  But it’s easier to pay bills, so I guess some sacrifice has to be made somewhere.  I’ll still be back at it though, just moving slower toward my goal most likely.

Thanks to you all for reading what I write and leaving your comments.  It means a lot to me and makes blogging worth it when there’s not enough time to post as much as I would like.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Time to gear up and get back to editing my book

Now that NaNo is about over this year and Thanksgiving has passed, it’s time to dig in and get serious about the editing of my previous writing. 

At least that’s what I think I intend to do between getting ready for Christmas, working, and all the other things life demands of us.  Will I be successful at this?  Time will tell.

Happy writing to all of you and kuddos for not letting the distractions in life block your path.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Winter’s coming

Even if winter isn't your favorite season

Summer tourists have long gone home
The swimming pool sits quiet and alone
Autumn colors adorn the trees
They scatter in a chilly breeze
Time for plants to take a rest
So summer blooms can be their best

Drag out the coats and bundle up for the cold winter nights
Out my window, the Earth is silent and quite a sight
The cold winds blow to sculpt the rocks
Better grab an extra spare of socks
Snows will come soon to cover the land
Wrapping up the red desert sand

Animals hibernate in their burrows ‘till spring
When again the birds will come to sing
I’m counting the days until the Earth warms again
And animals emerge once more from their den
The search for food will be on
As grass springs forth from winter’s lawn

My heart rejoices as warmer, longer days come
Thawing out, I’m no longer numb
With a spring in my step, the winter clothes can go
It’s sandals, tank tops and shorts, you can’t say no
New life has come to me along with the land
Time to wiggle my toes in the sand

Saturday, October 31, 2015


Be safe in your celebrations and keep your black cats safe.  

Monday, October 19, 2015

Entering NaNo -- insane or an exercise in discipline

I’m asking myself this very question as November approaches and another National Novel Writing Month comes along with it.  I’ve done this three times and I’m thinking about doing it again this year.  Why would I subject myself to this torture for thirty days?

The pros:

For one, it keeps me writing so it’s very good for discipline.  I won’t sign up at all unless I’m committed to finishing by the deadline. 

However, I think insanity also plays a part in this because I have too much on my plate this year to give this a second thought.  I have a PT job, the holidays are coming, and we all know what that means when you work in a retail environment.  The only redeeming feature here is that hubby will be out of state for part of the month.  When it’s only me, I can eat anything at any time and not make a fuss with dinner or clean up.  I can also adjust my sleeping schedule to a certain point, having to consider the job as well.  I’m thankful I can function on two hours of sleep.  Sometimes that comes in handy.

Two, they have great discussion boards to take advantage of if you’re stumped with your writing endeavor.  All you have to do is post a question and some brilliant person will come along to answer.  You’ll find a discussion boards for almost every topic you can imagine.  I have to admit I rarely take advantage of this discussion feature because, as we all know, it’s easy to be caught up socializing and not working on your word count. 

NaNo requires you to write 50,000 words in a month.  If you make it, you “win” and different things are available to you, such as writing software and books at discounts.  There are also helpers for editing and if you get your book finished in six months, there’s a discount on self-publishing.  At least there was last year.  This never happens for me.  I’m still working on my last three NaNo projects.  Someday I’ll have a series worth publishing.

The team at NaNoWriMo sends emails and pep talks to your inbox.  Some brilliant people write these, designing them to keep you motivated, your butt in the chair, and your hands on your keyboard.

There’s a great community of other writers at NaNo and if you’re lucky enough to live in a bigger city, there will probably be organized write-ins with others that live there.  This helps to keep you going too, although my town is too small to take advantage of this.

If you make your 50,000 words by November 30, you’ll feel so great and have such a sense of accomplishment.  Your story may not be finished, or ready to edit, but you’ll have a great start to a book.

Everything has a downside and NaNo does too. 

The cons:

You must write 1667 words a day to finish by November 30.  This is a huge commitment.  It takes time away from your family and holiday activities.

You need to prepare yourself for writing your brains out and let nothing hold you back.  You have to stay disciplined and committed.  There’s no penalty if you don’t “win,” but you’ll feel better about yourself if you do and also know you can do it.

Don’t get distracted by anything unless your house is burning down.  This means avoid FB and any other social platforms.  Don’t spend hours on email during your writing time, if you want to finish.  Save this for after you make your daily word count.

Do not watch TV or anything else until you’ve reached your daily goal.  If you can do more words, then you can take a day off during the month, which is the way I do it.  That way you don’t feel totally left out of things going on in your daily life and your husband and kids won’t want to kill you.

Brew lots of coffee and stock up on snack food, which is bad thing to say, but sometimes that’s all you can do if you want to keep going.  You don’t want your hunger to sidetrack you.  If you leave your chair, there’s a good chance you won’t be back in it later in the day.  I’m only speaking from experience here.  When you’re in the zone, stay put.

Some last thoughts:

If you intend to participate, do your character sketches now and write down plot points for your story.  You are allowed to do this beforehand.  You just can’t start writing your story until November 1.  I usually make a few notes, even being the pantster I am.  That way you aren’t totally lost and know what you want to cover in the story, and you don’t get your characters mixed up that way, which helps later during the edit process. 

Resist the urge to edit as you go.  I can’t stress this enough.  You don’t want to spend any time on anything except writing.  Editing can wait.

Back up your work daily.  Don’t turn the computer off until you do.  Writing is too hard to risk losing everything.  I back up everything twice, once to my external drive and once to Dropbox, which is a great cloud storage place and is free, up to 2 GB of space.  If you need this program, you can get it by clicking on Dropbox above.  THIS IS A CLEAN LINK.  I downloaded one last year that had viruses attached, so be careful.  Now, or any time, you don’t want to deal with that.

Sign yourself up here for NaNo, so that’s done when the first rolls around.  

Above all, have fun and good luck.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Enjoy a laugh about writing

A writer died and was given the opportunity of going to heaven or hell.

She decided to check out each place first.  As the writer descended into the fiery pits, she saw row upon row of writers chained to their desks in a steaming sweatshop.  As they worked, they were repeatedly whipped with thorny lashes.

“Oh my,” said the writer.  “Let me see heaven now.”

A few moments later, as she ascended into heaven, she saw rows of writers chained to their desks in a steaming sweatshop.  As they worked, they, too, were whipped with thorny lashes.

“Wait a minute,” said the writer.  “This is just as bad as hell!”

“Oh no, it’s not,” replied an unseen voice.  “Here, your work gets published.”

This is part of a blog post on the Writer’s Relief website.  They stumbled across some laughs for writers from Villanova University and this was one of their favorites.

This article has been reprinted with permission of Writer’s Relief, an author submission service that has been helping creative writers make submissions since 1994.  Their work is highly recommended in the writing community, and there are TONS of freebies, publishing leads, and writer’s resources on their website.  Check it out here.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Review for Life - it’s a Trip by Rasheed Hooda

I received this book as a PDF file from Rasheed.  I was surprised to find it in my email box on September 22.  I’ve been reading his blog posts since the A to Z challenge last April and really like his voice.  Thanks so much, Rasheed, for your book of life’s adventures so far.

This book is a quick read and very interesting.  Most areas are two or three pages long.  I found it well written and filled with things Mr. Hooda has learned in his life through the people he’s met during his working life and in his travels across the US.  This man has big goals for scaling mountains and has lots of energy.  What a great thing.  He also has a positive attitude about life even when things aren’t going their best.

Rasheed has chosen the nomadic lifestyle for himself, not wanting to be a “slave to wages”.  The nomadic lifestyle isn’t for me.  This clearly won’t work for everyone, but we each have to choose our own path and the author makes that clear.  He’s having a blast sharing his travels and thoughts about life on his journey through the states.

I think you’ll find this an enjoyable book to read.  Rasheed shares his thoughts on intuition, money, mentors, family and friends, finding your right place in the world and living your dream as you touch other lives with every action you make whether you know this or not.  This book will make you think and is written in a down-to-earth fashion.  As I read the short stories, I felt as if I was sitting in the room with this author and listening to his tales.

Life is full of difficulties and Rasheed shares some of his, along with some tragic happenings, as well.  He’s trying to live by the law of attraction (like attracts like) and mindfulness.  Good for him.  We should all be aware of these things in our journey on Earth.  By focusing on positive or negative thoughts, a person will bring positive or negative things into their lives.

The book is filled with lovely quotes too.  And I love this one from the author:  “Dreams do come true.  But first, you must have a dream.  So dream on and dream big.”

You can buy Rasheed’s book from his site here:

Or you can purchase his book at Amazon by clicking here.
Please leave him a review on his site, your blog, or on Amazon.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Awesome Writer’s Tool and Give Away!!

Reblogged from Jen’s Thoughts
I love writing tools, and when I find a good one, I have to share. Anyone who has followed my blog has heard me mention Grammarly. I use Grammarly for every word I write whether it’s for an email, cover letter, resume, short story, or my new novel. I have the ability to use it directly on their website or while I’m typing in Word (they offer a word plug-in).
Recently, Grammarly became available for Google Chrome as an add-on which means that it will assist you while you write emails, blog posts, and even Facebook posts.
With each error correction and suggestion, I’m able to improve my writing on a consistent basis. Grammarly also emails a report concerning your usage and where your problem areas are. Since grammar isn’t my strong suit, I’m now able to identify my mistake while writing. It helps me become more aware especially since I’m a visual learner. I traditionally suck at commas! :)
So if there is one tool I would recommend its Grammarly. And, here’s the really exciting part. I’m offering a free 3-month premium trial to a lucky winner! You can try it out for yourself and watch your writing improve.
Here’s the inside scoop about Grammarly from Wikipedia:
Grammarly carries out more than 250 grammar checks; it proofreads and detects plagiarism in the process and finally provides users with a list of possible errors for correction.
Grammarly also provides citations when it detects plagiarism. Users can click on a “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” icon to let Grammarly know whether the result was helpful.
Other features include:
·                         A grammar checker that can analyze general, business, academic, technical, creative and casual writings.
·                         A contextual spell checker that determines the appropriate spelling of a word as it is used in a sentence; thus, it finds misspelled words and also identifies correctly spelled yet incorrectly used words.
·                         Grammarly Plug-in for Microsoft Office, which adds Grammarly to Microsoft Word and Outlook.
·                         An online Grammarly Handbook resource covering what the Grammarly platform does in checking grammar and syntax.
To enter you need to:
·                         Follow my blog
·                         Share this post on Facebook and Twitter
·                         Comment below WHY you would like to win and also leave the Facebook post or Twitter link that you shared
I’ll have the drawing next Tuesday, October 6th, and will announce the lucky winner!
Until Next Time…

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Celebrate the Freedom to Read

So far, we still have that freedom in America.  Banned Books week is coming up and this year it runs from September 27 to October 3 2015 in the United States.  This is about the freedom to express ideas, even the unpopular ones.  Where would we, as writers, be without that?  No one should be censored because, just like the TV with its off switch, you don’t have to open a book’s cover.

Thanks to librarians, publishers, teachers, readers and a group of others that come together in support of our freedoms to make the choice of what to read, Banned Books week is brought to the publics attention every year.  If you want to get involved, you can contact the office of intellectual freedom at 1-800-545-2433 ext 4220 or by email at

For a list of banned books click here.  Follow the links on the page for several articles and lists.

Most of the reasons books are banned is because they contain one of the following: an unconventional viewpoint, drugs, smoking, alcohol, offensive language, too much sex and nudity, rape, homosexuality, gambling, controversial political or religious views, occultism, political correctness, bullying, etc.

I think, as adults, we can make up our minds about what we want to read and what’s appropriate for our children to read.  I wouldn’t want to leave this decision to anyone else to make for me.

There are some great classics on this partial list.  How many of you have read some of these books and how did they influence you, other than being a good story?  For the life of me, I have no idea why some of these are banned.  There are so many books all over the bookshelves in stores or online today with similar scenes in them, so why pick these?

The Great Gatsby
The Catcher in the Rye
The Grapes of Wrath
To Kill a Mockingbird
The Color Purple
The Lord of the Flies
Of Mice and Men
Catch 22
Animal Farm
A Farewell to Arms
As I Lay Dying
The Sun Also Rises
Invisible Man
Gone with the Wind
One Flew over the Cuckoos Nest
The Call of the Wild
A Clockwork Orange
The Lord of the Rings
Lady Chatterley’s Lover
In Cold Blood
Rabbit, Run
Sons and Lovers
Uncle Tom’s Cabin

Even Harry Potter was on this list for a while and so was The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.  Amazing isn’t it, the way some people try to save us from ourselves.  The best thing we can do is to read these books and help to educate those who haven’t read them.  They’re missing out on some great literature.

To read this article and for more resources, click here.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Thanks to Indy Authors

Reposting this from Jen’s blog here.

Original post from Silver Threading here.

Spread this around to help all the independent authors out there.  Writing is hard work and it takes dedication.  We want to support them as much as we can.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Amazon unveils a new way to pay Authors for Kindle Books

I found this interesting.  Maybe you will too.

The article says that authors gave Amazon great feedback about aligning payments for books read with the length of the books.  Amazon listened and starting today, July 1, 2015, Amazon will pay self-published authors by pages read when a reader borrows a book from the kindle lending library.

Self-published authors will be paid for each page read the first time by a reader, so if you have a long page-turner, you’ll make more money than an author whose book is never finished by the reader.  I’m always skeptical when a large conglomerate comes up with something new to benefit others and not themselves, but let’s see how all this works out.  Time will tell.  Maybe authors really will make more money if you have a compelling book out there to read.

If you’re unhappy with the program, you do have the option of removing your book from the kindle unlimited plan.

In a way, this is a reward for the writers who are diligent about writing the best book possible and having their books edited before placing them out there in the marketplace for sale.  This has to be a good thing.  Does anyone have opinions on this?

To read the entire article here, click here.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Could you live without your basic amenities?

How much do we all take certain things in life for granted?  I think the answer to that is most of us.  We expect the lights to come on when we flip a switch or the water to come out of a faucet when we turn it on.  But…what if this changed?

 My water meter
If you suddenly found yourself out of luck with the usual things like water or electricity, would you go into crisis mode and flip out, or simply adjust and deal with the situation until things are resolved? 

Right now, I’m dealing with this condition at my house.  I had to turn my water off on Saturday morning and we’ve been living with no water service in the house since then.  It’s now late Monday afternoon and I’ve yet to see the plumber show up to assess the situation.

 After the towel mop up, I used the wet and dry vac
To make a long story short, I discovered the carpet in the master closet was soaking wet on Saturday morning.  I grabbed towels to start soaking up what I could.  They were wet enough to wring out.  I called my husband who freaks out when things like this happen and he insisted I turn the water off at the street.  What really threw both of us off is there’s no water supply near this closet.  Our first thoughts were a ruptured pipe in the slab. 

 This is my mechanical room.  I didn't think to take a pic of the standing water.
Luckily, my neighbor works for the city and was home, so he came over to help me.  I couldn’t get the valve turned using a wrench.  I might mention it was 110 outside.  Both of us had sweat dripping down our noses and splattering onto the ground.  My neighbor has a handy tool just for this purpose.  He got the valve turned in two seconds.  Then he came in to look at my water heater, which he thinks is the problem.  My mechanical room had water standing in it.  He turned the main valve back on and just cut the water coming into the house until we could call a plumber.  Naturally, it was the weekend.  Of course, things this major always happen on weekends and holidays.

 Then I brought in the super duper fan from the garage and an extension cord and blew it on the carpet all weekend.
The last time it was a power outage in July a few years ago when it was 114 and the power to the entire city was out for five hours!  Can you imagine that?  But I think this water issue is almost worse.

With this heat, I had to break down and go to a girlfriend’s on Sunday to take a shower.  One can only use so many wet wipes.  The next stop was the dollar store for lots of bottled gallons of water.

Supposedly, hearing my desperation, the plumber is working me in somehow so I can at least get cold water into the house until he can properly fix the problem.  We’ll see if he shows up later today.  I’m not holding my breath.

In times like these, it makes you appreciate running water.  I wonder how I can use this in a future story.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Thoughts on Creativity

Sometimes, calling up my creative self and staying in writing or rewriting mode can be a challenge when I’m not in the mood or not feeling creative.  I think this is natural because we all have to incorporate our regular lives in with our writing ones and it helps to remember some things.  I’m usually thinking about areas in my book or certain points I can make better, or perhaps eliminate or condense.  The greatest breakthroughs seem to burst into my head when I’m trying to get to sleep.  Go figure that when I couldn’t get things to mesh all day.

During these times, I look for inspiration everywhere.  What I like best is to read tips and articles that inspire me, perhaps even a book.  I especially like quotes.

Look at this one:

"A student of life considers the world a classroom."
--Harvey MacKay

Think about this.  We are never too old to learn something new and we'll never know 100% of everything.  I feel we can learn from all sorts of things in daily life every single day.  What a wonderful thing this is.  We can apply this quote to writing by being open to new ideas and constructuve criticism.  

Of course, we all want to hear how wonderful our work is, whether it's writing, painting or taking photographs, but the problem is none of us can learn this way.  We need objective people we trust who can help with a constructive approach, not a confrontational one.

Creativity will never go away if we were born this way, but we should keep boundaries in mind or we may find ourselves daydreaming the day away.  Setting limits and implementing schedules is a good idea.  This isn't something I necessarily like to do, but if I don't keep my mind reigned in, I'll be off on some fantasy adventure instead of pursuing the goal at hand, which is the rewrite of my mystery manuscript.

Baby chipmunks in my backyard

Right now, it's so beautiful here that it's easy to be swept away watching all the new wildlife babies passing through my yard daily. This would be great inspiration if I were writing a children's book.  I find myself making up short animal stories in my head.  Yes, I'm being creative, but not in the right way.

I realize I'll never finish my book this way, so it's nose to the grindstone while I wait for my last chapter to come back to me with some helpful criticism from the ladies who are kind enough to read it for me.

Is anyone else out there working on a rewrite?  How's it going?  Do you have any tips to share?

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Does your mindset influence real life outcomes?

Research shows that the way we feel about ourselves does influence our lives.  This is a no brainer if you really think about it.  Naturally, we’ll attract a negative outcome if we think we’re not good enough at whatever it is we’re undertaking.

You may believe you are destined to think a certain way and be a certain way, not believing that personal growth is possible.  If you think you’re not good enough, it will affect your long-term skills.  When asked to do something you consider out of reach, you may feel unmotivated or demoralized.  Of course, this will how you feel if you believe you were born with all the talent, interests, temperament, etc that you’ll ever have.  With this sort of mindset, it will be almost impossible to achieve great things because you’re limiting yourself. 

On the other end of the spectrum is the growth mindset.  Most people know they aren’t geniuses but they believe that accomplishments are possible with work.  If we make the effort, we can build our skills.  We can succeed and overcome our challenges.

This concerns everything in life, but in this case, we can apply it to writing by reading and writing as much as we can to learn as much as possible.  Patience and repetition is the key here.  Eventually with enough practice, the right procedures will become a part of our thinking and it will become second nature to us.

I hope this motivates you to get to work on your manuscript.  You can do it!

Monday, May 18, 2015

The subplot in writing

As I’m rewriting my mystery book, I’ve been thinking about this a lot.  We all know it’s good to build depth to our characters and show them as real people with real issues that we all have in life.  To write a book that is like real life should be the goal.  We want our readers to feel like the story is really happening, or could happen as we write it.

Real life is a messy business.  We all have issues to deal with on a daily basis and things that crop up and surprise us too.  If we put our characters into some of these situations, we’re showing more about them and the real people they are underneath the persona they display to the public.

The subplots running under the main narrative make our characters real, believable people who are tackling their own demons as they solve the crisis going on in the main storyline.

Subplots work to make the story better in any genre.  There are so many ideas to choose from, such as an impending divorce, turmoil on the home front, addiction, an old flame or enemy emerging on the scene, betrayal, revenge, an unpleasant discovery about someone the protagonist never really knew at all, or something else that would cause the hero internal conflict that interferes with the current problem. 

We all have things to hide.  How well can you ever know anyone?

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Showing versus Telling

All of us have heard this at least a hundred times.  I found this quote in Writer’s Digest.  I think it sums up this concept well.

“If you tell a reader that Bull Beezley is a brutal-faced, loose-lipped bully, with snake’s blood in his veins, the reader’s reaction may be, ‘Oh yeah!’  But if you show the reader Bull Beezley raking the bloodied flanks of his weary, sweat-encrusted pony, and flogging the tottering, red-eyed animal with a quirt, or have him booting in the protruding ribs of a starved mongrel and, boy, the reader believes!”
 – Fred East, WD

What do you think?

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Review for Far Outside the Ordinary by Prissy Elrod

5 stars
Sad but enjoyable story

I usually don’t read many memoirs for pleasure, but I picked this book up because it’s an account of what the author went through when her husband was diagnosed with a brain tumor that would take his life.  Glioblastoma is an aggressive tumor that’s hard to remove surgically because of the way it grows into the brain with finger-like projections. 

My sister-in-law died of this same tumor in 2009, so I was interested in this story.  It turns out this man, Boone Kuersteiner, finally ended up at the Stanislaw Burzynski Clinic in Houston as a final effort to save his life.  This MD is from Poland and uses an unconventional treatment for cancer patients.  The FDA doesn’t approve his infusion therapy and he has claims against him for fraud and non-compliance, but when you’re desperate, what else can you do?  Boone’s wife, Prissy, was ever hopeful that she would find a cure in time to save her husband.  He had undergone brain surgery, chemo, radiation, and even visited an Indian shaman for his disease.

Prissy attended seminars on brain cancer and kept looking for cures, until all was exhausted and Boone was tired of fighting.

This book does have some funny moments despite the dismal nature of the outcome.  These times mainly concern the help that Prissy hires to get her through this awful time taking care of Boone.  It’s amazing what she was able to do and to put up with for Bonne’s care.

After he passes not all is lost after all, as she assumed it would be.

This book is a fast read with short chapters.  I recommend it, especially to readers who’ve lost a loved one to cancer.  I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

Available at Amazon

Monday, March 30, 2015


I’m still working on my rewriting, which is slow going.  I took a couple of weeks to write all my blog posts for the A to Z Challenge that starts on April 1.  I’ve got those all scheduled, so it’s back to my book rewrites.

Have any of you participated in the A to Z?  This is my fourth year doing it.  Coming up with a topic for each letter can be taxing on the brain.  Mine is always so busy thinking and working out issues that maybe I’ll never get Alzheimer’s.  That would be one consolation to all the sleep I miss.  Sometimes I wonder if I’m putting my brain into enough situations to sort out.  I think I am. 

Spring is in full swing here now so that means allergy season and yard work on top of all the other daily stuff.  Sometimes it’s tough to squeeze in all this writing and things I’d rather be doing.  Even so, I’m happy to kiss winter good-bye.

I’ll leave you with some nice quotes.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

I could get lost in a place like this

All books hold knowledge of some kind or another.  I’m reading a good one right now that’s a true story, but written like fiction.  I’ll review it here sometime next month.

Does anyone go to the library anymore?  Do you have a home library?  Sometimes I think the world is trending towards doing everything on computers.  What a shame because there’s nothing like walking into a room filled with books and having the scent of the printed page engulf you.

I hope libraries aren’t on track to join the dinosaurs in extinction.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015


This is a short excerpt from my M/G adventure story, Saving the Rainbow.  I thought it might be fun for St. Patrick’s Day.

Patrick ran at a steady pace, his feet pounding on the packed earth of the well-worn path.  Coming to a sudden stop, he bent to arch his back, resting his hands on his thighs, catching his breath as he looked back at his friend who was lagging behind again.
“Can’t ye keep up?”  He called out in gasping syllables, his disheveled red hair hiding one eye and half the freckles on his face.
“I don’t think we should be goin’ into the faery woods.”  Barry replied, as he loped along at least twenty paces behind, his breeches dragging in the dirt of the road.
Patrick’s eyes twinkled as he studied his friend.  He couldn’t believe what just popped out of his mouth.  He knew Barry always loved to take part in a prank, or get into a bit of mischief.
Shifting his muslin school bag on his shoulder Barry came to rest beside him, anxiety seeping out of his pores.  Patrick didn’t understand why Barry was always suspicious about the adventures he suggested, and yet his friend had no problem being an accomplice when it came to playing jokes on the old school teacher.
“I think it’ll be all right.  Now come on.  Ye know we must be home by dusk, or our parents will be concerned about us.”  Patrick’s gray-blue eyes glanced skyward under the curl of hair that rested on his forehead.  There was plenty of daylight left judging by the angle of the sun.
“I can’t figure out why ye always delight in goin’ places you’re not supposed to.”  Barry complained.  He shook his head and wondered when Patrick had become so daring.  “Ye know what they say about goin’ in there alone.”  His dark eyes looked toward the woodland that loomed nearer and nearer.
“Aye?  Well I won’t be alone because you’re comin’ with me.”  Patrick sneered as he grabbed Barry’s arm and pulled him forward.  They started down the path again as a sly grin spread across Patrick’s face.
“What’s so important in there anyway?”  Barry tried to sound brave even though he was pretty sure they’d be bewitched if they set foot in the forbidden woods, and probably whisked away never to be seen again.
“I want to find a faery or a leprechaun.  I’m sure we’ll find one in there and maybe I can persuade them to grant my wish.  Perhaps they’ll even give me magic powers and then I can do anything that I want to.  Can ye imagine what we could do with an amazing gift like that, Barry?  Now come on.  Let’s hurry.”  Patrick’s excitement caused him to walk faster, dragging an unwilling Barry with him.
“What are ye wishin’ for now, Patrick?”  Barry tried his best to keep the nervous anticipation out of his voice.  Lately Barry noticed Patrick wasn’t ever satisfied, or too happy about things.  What caused this strange behavior in his friend?  He was determined to find out the reason for his obsession with adventures, and having to get his own way about everything.
“Are things all right at home, Patrick?”  Concern showed in Barry’s face.  Maybe I can do something to help.
Pushing forward, with Barry in tow, Patrick kept a firm grip and moved on.  “Ye know my Pa works way too hard, and he’s not a young man anymore.  I hope to find a way to make things easier for him.  That’s all.  Wouldn’t it be nice if he could sell the farm, especially before I have to take over?”  Patrick answered calmly as if this was a trip to the miller’s to pick up some grain, instead of an adventure into the mysterious forest.  If there was any way he could get out of farming potatoes, Patrick would do it.  He was only twelve, but time was going by fast.
“Well I don’t think goin’ into the faery woods will help.”  Barry let his gaze move toward the giant trees waiting for them at the end of the path.  Reluctance swept over him.  He didn’t want to be a participant in one of Patrick’s schemes, especially one like this after all the talk in the village about getting lost in the faery woods never to find your way out again.  He wasn’t that anxious to get away from his sisters, his parents, or even all his chores as much as he disliked them at times.
“Here we are.  Now just stick with me.”  Barry came out of his thoughts just as Patrick pulled him inside the dark mass of vegetation, his fingers still clutching the neck of Barry’s brown tunic.  When the boys were well inside the woodland, Patrick let go.  Barry won’t run home now and will have to follow me because he’s too cowardly to do anything else.  Patrick knew he could’ve gone alone, but it was nice to have the company.  He hoped this adventure would do Barry some good.  He reminded Patrick of a startled rabbit.  The boy certainly needed more bravery, especially where magical things were concerned.  How would they ever be able to confront elves, faeries, and battle demons together?  Barry could never get along by himself and he wouldn’t be much good to me in such an encounter if he doesn’t muster up some courage.
The boys inched along, stepping over tangled roots that looked like twisted snakes crisscrossing the narrow path.  Their feet kicked up years of rotting leaf mold, and both boys sneezed several times as fragments drifted in the air around them and resettled on the dusty ground.  It was rather dark, compared to the field they left behind, and Barry kept tripping over the old roots and stubbing his toes.  Patrick walked more carefully, his wiry body twisting under the trees and over the brambles, but it was still impossible to miss all the debris in the way.
“Ouch.  Watch it!”
“Aye, aye,” Barry murmured, “sorry.”
“Sorry for what, Barry?  Ye didn’t do anything except make me drag ye in here.”  Patrick glanced over his shoulder where Barry was struggling along, and he couldn’t help but laugh.
“Ach, I thought I stepped on your foot.  Didn’t ye just say ‘Ouch watch it?’”  Barry tried to explain, under Patrick’s stare, as he fought to stay upright and tripped over another root.  He lurched forward and bumped against Patrick’s back.
“Nay, I didn’t say anything.  Are ye spooked already?”  Barry shrank as Patrick glowered at him.  He didn’t want to appear cowardly and tried to steady himself to keep from trembling.
Barry knew he heard a voice back there on the trail.  Who was it if it wasn’t Patrick?  He peered around cautiously.  Anything can be here and I wouldn’t even see it.  Too many branches covered the old trees.  Someone could easily hide among them.  Barry felt invisible eyes staring at him and he shivered, as he met Patrick’s face, and tried to put his fears aside.
“Nay, I’m not spooked wise guy.  Something did speak back there.  I’m surprised ye didn’t take notice of it.  How are ye goin’ to find the wee folk anyway if ye didn’t hear that?”  Barry stood more erect as he yanked on his tunic in an effort to straighten it.  The brown garment hung lopsided on his shoulders.  The wrinkles stood up in a permanent pucker where Patrick had it twisted in his hands earlier.  Barry demanded that Patrick make him aware of his plan.
“Up around that bend is a clearin’ where a spring comes out of the rocks.  I think that might be a good place to start.”  Patrick seemed confident enough as he started forward through the trees again.
Well anything will be better than these dark woods.  It’s so musty in here.  Barry sneezed again and looked forward to the clearing and some fresher air.  The forest was closing in and the twisted branches seemed like arms swirling around him.  He shivered and wanted to get this mission over.
©Sunni Morris
An excerpt from my book Saving the Rainbow

Happy St Patrick's Day everyone!

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

The Art of Revision

Writing is rewriting…if you fall in
love with the vision you want of your
work and not your words, the rewriting
will become easier. __ Nora Deloach
 This is harder to do than it sounds.

I must apologize for being so neglectful of posting here recently.  The last few months I’ve been rewriting my WIP and finding it challenging, to say the least.

To keep this concise, I’ve fiddled around with the second chapter, cutting this, inserting that, moving things around, making changes to the information and moving that around.  I’ve tried to get into my character’s head, listen to what she’s hearing, and feel what she’s feeling.

I’ve rewritten this particular chapter numerous times and finally decided it would work best if I combined it with another chapter further in the book.  Eventually, after two months of this business, I told myself I have to be satisfied at some point because I could go on revising forever.  That’s out of the question because I have many more chapters to rewrite, so it’s now in the hands of two gals who are good enough to read it for me, for which I’m grateful.

I’m now working on chapter three and finding myself up against another struggle.  I wonder sometimes if we really know what we’re in for when we decide to sit down in the first place and write a story.

It still comes down to the fact that for me writing is all magic.  I can’t seem to stop my mind from spinning tales.  Every story starts out with an idea in my head, something I can see from start to finish--up to a point.  Nothing is ever set in concrete because once I start writing it, sometimes that changes, as my characters tend to take over.  One of my favorite parts is writing the rough draft because I can let my imagination go wild and throw everything to the wind as long as I follow my main points I set out beforehand.

The rewriting is a tough one, to polish it all out into one beautifully written story that will keep a reader from becoming bored.  This isn’t an easy task when there are so many things to keep in mind during the polishing process.

If you find me absent at times, now you know why.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Isn’t this the truth?

The very reason I’m having so much trouble rewriting my book.  I see too much to change.  Then once changed, I’m still not satisfied.  This is a great quandary for my brain cells.  I’ll eventually get there.  At least I have something to start with, which is better than nothing, or at least that’s what I keep telling myself.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

What a great book

I’ve had The Thorn Birds for a while but I picked it up again a couple of weeks ago and started reading it in my ‘chill out’ times.  I forgot what a great story this is.  I can hardly put the book down at night to go to bed.

Yes, I should be working on my book, but I’ve been gathering things for taxes, trying to work out computer issues, keeping the house spotless so we can show it at any time, and dealing with a couple of personal issues concerning close friends.  All I have time for lately is a little reading before bed.

The Thorn Birds was published in 1977 and probably breaks the rules concerning literature today.  There’s not much dialogue in numerous places and lots of descriptions and back story.  Personally I find all this interesting and it doesn’t put me off the story much.  I do wish it had more dialogue though instead of internal thoughts.  Still, it’s a classic so this author did something right.  You should read this book if you haven’t yet, or if it’s been a long time since you held it in your hands. 

My copy is a hard cover book printed on very old paper, the kind that isn’t even on the outer edges.  This only adds to the charm.  I love to hold a physical book when I read.  Does anyone else own actual books anymore, or is everything you read on kindle these days?

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Staying Inspired

Oh yes…that thing we must all do if we’re writers and hope to finish anything we’re working on.  Sometimes this is harder to do than you think, unless you’ve been there yourself.  Any art takes a lot of brain power and imagination.

I find that reading helps if I’m at a loss for where to go next.  Picking up a book in the same genre as my WIP seems to jumpstart my batteries and gets my mind going again.  There are a few things I’ve discovered through my reading, not only in novels but also literary magazines and self-help books that I think will apply to any genre. 

Don’t be Boring.  Keep something happening.  Think about reading the book you’re writing as a reader, not an author.  Is it interesting?  If not, how can you change it?  Maybe the action doesn’t start until the second page.  Can you switch it around and put that part first?  If necessary, read some opening lines of novels you have in your home library.

Grab the reader by the throat.  What kind of action can you devise for your protagonist that would put them in physical or emotional jeopardy?  Never start any novel with a description of the weather or anything else mundane.

Give your protagonist a purpose to get involved in the conflict.  With crime novels, remember a killer never kills because they are mad.  There’s always another reason.  It’s the same with any genre.  There is usually a hidden reason behind the actions of the antagonist that will be discovered throughout the course of the story.  Everyone has an agenda.

Characters shouldn’t be likeable.  They should be real, like people in ordinary life.  How many of us know someone that is perfect?  We all have our flaws, even when we’re basically likeable.  We all know liars and cheaters, scoundrels and bitches, unsure people in our lives, or we’ve crossed paths with such people in the past.  Maybe these people make some bad choices because they’re only trying to fit in.  Go there in your mind and use this knowledge when molding your characters.  The readers will have empathy for your flawed characters because they can be damaged and likeable.

Endings should be a slap in the face and something the reader didn’t see coming.  The whole novel is important, but beginnings and endings are super important.  The reader should feel satisfied with the way the story ended, but at the same time surprised at how it ended.

Experience what life is about so you can use it in your writing.  I’m talking about the things we all face as human beings – accomplishment and disappointment, anger and joy, heartbreak and excitement.  Dig deep into your soul and bring up these feelings so they flood onto the page in the words you type.

Know what your story is about.  This isn’t the elevator pitch you ramble off when someone asks you about your book.  This is deeper than that.  What does your story mean to you?  What does it say about the world as viewed through your eyes?  Something buried in our subconscious drives us to get up early and/or stay up late typing at the keyboard on our WIP.  What is at the heart of our story?  Is it anger or sadness?  What drives the protagonist and antagonist?  Are they seeking justice, revenge, or something else?  If we can find it, we can classify and expand upon it and make our WIP’s killer novels one day. 

Saturday, February 14, 2015

The Dark Beginnings of Valentines Day

Lupercalia by betterPtopaganda

I ran across some interesting pieces about the origin of this holiday.  I thought I’d share this from an NPR article from 2011.

Valentines Day, like so many holidays we celebrate, began as a pagan feast, this particular holiday the Roman feast of Lupercalia.  This celebration was held between the thirteenth and fifteenth of February every year.

The Roman men, drunk and naked, would kill a goat or dog and then whip the women with the hides thinking this would increase fertility.  Believe it or not, the women would line up to be whipped by the men.  Hmmm…maybe this was a highlight back in the day.  I imagine regular life was mundane and villagers looked forward to all the festivals.

This feast also included a lottery where young men would draw women’s names out of a jar.  The couples would be matched up for the duration of the festival, or longer if it was a good match.

Later on, in the third century, and in two different years, Emperor Claudius II executed two men on February fourteenth, both named Valentine.  I’m not sure what these men did to lead to this kind of punishment, but the Catholic Church honored these martyrs by celebrating St. Valentine’s Day. 

In the fifth century, things were changed again when Pope Gelasius I combined Valentine’s Day with Lupercalia in order to abolish the pagan celebration.  The festival remained a drunken revelry, only now the Christians wore clothes.  It was still a day of fertility and love.

The holiday grew sweeter as the years went by with writers romancing it in their work.  In the middle ages the first Valentine’s Day cards appeared.  Cards were handmade until the tradition made its way to the New World where factory-made cards were generated in the nineteenth century.

Today this holiday, like most of them we celebrate, is big business with all sorts of things appearing in the stores way before the actual holiday.  In 2012 more than $18 billion was spent on Valentine’s Day purchases.  Today we buy jewelry, flowers, chocolates, stuffed animals and other trinkets for our beloved on this day of love.  Even single people buy themselves gifts.

It makes one wonder if anyone still celebrates as the old Romans did.

What are you doing for Valentine’s Day?  Is it a holiday you celebrate?